TE Joseph Fauria impresses early in career

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He had few chances. Going into his first NFL game, Joseph Fauria had no idea how much he’d be on the field or if he’d even have an opportunity to catch a pass. Let alone a touchdown.

When Fauria did, he didn’t really know what to do. He remembered his preseason touchdown and how he almost messed up his ankle trying to spike the ball. So instead he danced. Oddly.

FauriaFauria"I make those plays in practice and Matt trusts me and I’m going to continue to build that trust with him,” Fauria said. “I caught it. Last time I rolled my ankle in the preseason when I scored a touchdown, so I couldn’t do that.

“So I decided to dance or something like that.”

Whether the spontaneous dance was actually a dance or "something like that" is still up for debate, but Fauria knew the ball was going to come to him before the play. He just had to catch the ball. He was making those types of plays in the preseason, enough of them for the undrafted free agent from UCLA to make the roster, be active and play 11 snaps in his first game.

This, of course, opened him to dancing when he scored.

“It’s actually on film and I don’t know if you want that,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “There’s a reason I don’t dance at weddings or anywhere else and that’s because of cameras and there’s a lot of cameras at NFL games. I’ll probably leave it at that.”

There may be many more opportunities to dance or celebrate or whatever it is the affable rookie wants to do. At 6-foot-7, he provides Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford with a large target other than star receiver Calvin Johnson over the middle and on fade routes.

He has also proven to have reliable hands and enough speed to become a mismatch for defenses as he continues to work on his game. Stafford learned that about Fauria the first time he threw a pass to him in training camp.

“I remember the first ball I threw to Fauria, I think in training camp, got picked,” Stafford said. “I could have thrown it another two feet higher and he still would have caught it.

“You’ve got to learn to be able to throw, like when I first started throwing the ball to Calvin, you’ve got to learn that you can put it at a certain height and he can still go get it. It just takes some experience and some getting used to.”

As Stafford adjusts, it would not be surprising to see Fauria start to take more snaps from either Brandon Pettigrew or Tony Scheffler as the season progresses. He was targeted three times in his 11 snaps Sunday. In those snaps, Fauria lined up in the slot, on the outside and also with his hand down, showing versatility at all three areas the tight end needs to be productive.

If he can improve his blocking enough, he could end up being more of a problem for defenses and it could be more difficult to keep him from playing more -- to the point where he wouldn’t have to wonder how often he’ll play in a given game.

“He made very good use of the time he was in,” Schwartz said. “And scored a touchdown that was the difference maker.”

It could get interesting how much more Fauria makes a difference as the Lions move through the season.